Earlier this week, I spoke with Paul Cooper, newly minted chairman of the UK&Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG). Cooper is no SAP newbie counting 15 years experience with SAP systems. He is currently head of IS at Burton’s Biscuit Company, and prior to that spent 10 years in SAP-related roles at Northern Foods and Bluefin Solutions.
Crucially in the current SAP/User climate, Cooper chaired the application life cycle management special interest group for 7 years. These are the folk most interested in topic du jour – indirect access. It was one of our topics of conversation following the recent release of an SAP white paper that sets out SAP’s current position (PDF download from my Dropbox) on what has been a thorny and difficult topic.
The most important thing for customers to understand is that if they are concerned they may be under licensed AND call up their SAP account exec then SAP will not seek to apply what amounts to a back tax penalty for maintenance fees. That is in line with what Bill McDermott told me at SAPPHIRE, so kudos for delivering on that promise.
Our advice is to seek out the guidance of the SAP user group SIG because they have local experience in managing these issues and continue to have a dialogue with those who are heading the licensing policy initiative inside SAP.
However…(isn’t there always?) when we spoke, Cooper explained some of the practical problems involved in these discussions:
Many members have signed contracts with SAP under NDA which precludes then from speaking openly. They believe they should honor that NDA when it comes to discussions of this nature. I don’t doubt that some are nervous of bringing this topic into the open believing they got a better deal than their competitor or concerned that they might have missed something in a negotiation. Regardless, there are challenges on our side. But, it’s good to see what SAP has done is removing some of the fear and making it clear that – shall we say – the more ambitious sales people don’t use this to get more revenue.
I have no argument with much of what Cooper says but believe the NDA argument is moot. In my world, NDAs don’t count when there is a matter of public interest at stake and would certainly press colleagues to at least hold meetings under Chatham House rules so that the topic can be useful aired and from which everyone can benefit. Simply throwing out an NDA as a reason to stay quiet is effectively handing SAP an unfair advantage in a topic for which there is universal interest.
One interesting nugget to which all UK&I SUG members should pay attention. At this year’s annual UG conference, the head of SAP licensing will share the stage with ‘R’ Ray Wang, a long time critic of SAP licensing practices and CEO of Constellation Research. That’s a cage match for which the price of entry is well worth the paying. You can be certain that we will have a front row seat, ready with towels and water to douse down the combatants, take fight notes and gauge audience reaction.
Seriously though, this will be a very interesting conversation between two people with very different styles and agendas.
As an aside, ASUGNews has set out its understanding of the paper, which should serve as a jump off point for additional discussions. On to other matters.
Product and member expansion
With HANA and S/4HANA having been done to death in the marketing terms, it comes as no surprise that Cooper’s first train of thought is to use the expanding portfolio of SAP solutions as the jump point for expanding the user group. A first step in that direction is the merger between the SuccessFactors and main UK&IUG. The SuccessFactors group becomes a SIG with former chair Kara Nixon continuing her role albeit within the context of the SIG.
We need to be driving much harder into the line of business users community rather than our past focus on more technical people and that makes sense when you think about how solutions like Ariba, hybris and Concur are turning up in organizations along with SuccessFactors. The guys who are more techie are becoming less important from that perspective an particularly where you see software as a service applications.
I was a little surprised at this positioning but then Cooper was quick to point out that while hard core programming skills are less relevant in the SAP world of today, no-one should lose sight of the value that SAP coders add.
Turning to Brexit, Cooper said that one of the impending challenges is what happens around tax legs and regs.
We’re working closely with SUGEN (the world wide uber user group) to understand SAP’s planned roadmap for legislative change in a Brexit scenario. There have been incidences recently where we were concerned about timely support so given the volatile nature of Brexit and a fluid timetable, we want to be sire that members interests are protected.
This is a good topic with which to keep SAP honest. In common with other software vendors, SAP has been relatively quiet about what happens under a Brexit arrangement. This is understandable given that we’re a year into Brexit and so far, there is no discernible progress by the British government in either explaining or negotiating its plans.
There is a school of thought that says Brexit will quietly die on the proverbial vine as politicians realize that support for any recognizable form of Brexit will have economic consequences that threaten re-election prospects. Be that as it may (sic), in the mad world of current geo-politics, I suppose anything is possible but that should not be an excuse to quietly forget about required changes. The concern is that with the current morass in which Brexit is mired, that a deal may be hastily cobbled among politicians that leaves everyone scrambling to ensure their tax and regulatory reporting is compliant across nation states.
As always with a newly minted chairperson, expectations are set high and this is no exception. It is refreshing to see that on this occasion, Cooper is getting head of the coming issues rather than being force dragged into SAP marketing direction. That’s a practical and much needed approach for a country that has a health mix of innovating businesses and those that prefer to remain behind the bleeding edge.
Image credit - Story via UKISUG, featured via You Tube clip
Disclosure - SAP is a premier partner at time of writing